Actually, Davanni’s does a lot of good. The home-grown restaurant chain in the Twin Cities area specializes in New York-style pizza and hot hoagie sandwiches. Today the family-owned company has 21 Davanni’s restaurants, a bakery, and a coffee shop, employing 950 people.
In the 45 years they’ve been in business they’ve sponsored hundreds of youth teams and athletic organizations, participated in Operation Glass Slipper for area prom-goers, hosted many fundraisers, like Helping Paws (which generates about $5,500 every year), worked with Goodwill and Easter Seals, and helped out loads of other charitable efforts. This is a company that understands what it takes to be an active member of their community, to share the company’s success—and to do it because they truly want to.
One of Davanni’s longest-standing programs focuses on employing adults with disabilities. It’s been in place for 40 years. Forty. The company currently has 28 employees on staff with developmental disabilities, and it’s something they take seriously.
“We are humbled to provide a safe and caring work environment for individuals who may not have the opportunity to work elsewhere,” said Jennifer Kaufmann, Operations Supervisor/Director of Training/Menu Development Management. “It’s an experience that we can’t really put into words, we do what we need to do to make it work because it’s a positive thing for all Davanni’s employees. Everyone is good at something and we help people figure that out.”
Something that also means a lot to the Davanni’s group is the support they receive from their customers and the parents of the people they employ. “Our patrons love this program and are so complimentary and kind to all our employees,” said Kaufmann.
A Beautiful CHOICE
Davanni’s works with CHOICE, Inc., a local organization that provides adults with disabilities the opportunity to work, either in-house or in the community. The focus is on providing work and pursuing personal goals for each individual. Currently, CHOICE has 180 participants in three program locations with more than 85 business partners. While most of their employees with disabilities come from CHOICE, Davanni’s also works with Opportunity Partners, Opportunity Services, Merrick, and a few other community groups.
When Davanni’s has a group of more than three CHOICE workers on at one time, CHOICE places a job coach (at no cost) to be there during the shift for support and guidance. Together, Davanni’s and CHOICE find ways to help employees succeed in a role that suits their needs.
“As an organization, we are better for having them on board. It’s not just about a job, it’s about supporting everyone in the communities we serve,” says Kaufmann. “Honestly, we don’t tell this story often because that’s not why we do it. It’s just a part of who we are.”
The Place to Be
Davanni’s takes all their employees’ happiness and successes seriously, and by the looks of things they’ve found what works. The company’s managers have been employed with the organization for an average of 24 years. Assistant managers’ tenures average around 19 years.
“The restaurant business has a universal language. Everyone at work gets in the groove, focuses on what needs to be done and they do it together,” said Kaufmann. “We tell our people there isn’t anything you can do that we can’t fix. We are a work family and we treat people that way.”
“Employing people with disabilities happened so organically, it wasn’t a deliberate plan. These folks are just like everyone else. They want to enjoy going to work, like the people they work with, and look forward to earning a paycheck. We can’t imagine the Davanni’s world without our CHOICE employees. That’s one thing that will never change.” ~ Jennifer Kaufmann
By Sue Piette, Writer